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Life Sentences Overturned – Three Strikes Reform Passed in California

On November 6, 2012, Californians voted in favor of Proposition 36, a ballot measure that allows for shorter sentences for some third-time offenders of the controversial “Three Strikes Law.”

The California Three Strikes Law was established in the 1990s and was intended to discourage repeat offenders from committing serious or violent crimes. Under the law, if a person is convicted of a serious or violent felony, it goes against their record as a “strike.” If he or she commits another serious or violent felony later, the sentencing gets harsher and a second strike is put on their record. Upon receiving a third strike, the criminal must be incarcerated in state prison for 25 years to life.

One of the flaws in the original Three Strikes law is that a person with two strikes on their record would automatically earn a third strike (and life in prison) for being convicted of a third felony, regardless of its severity. As an example, a person with two strikes would be forced to serve life in prison for being convicted of a crime as minor as providing false identification to an officer.

Three Strikes has also been criticized for overburdening the California prison system, costing taxpayers to pay for the cost of incarcerating aging offenders that pose no significant threat to the public, and disproportionate outcomes, such as a shoplifter being more harshly sentenced than a murderer in certain circumstances.

The passage of Proposition 36 leads to some important changes to the California Three Strikes Law: it revises the law to impose a life sentence only if the third felony conviction is “serious or violent” and offenders currently serving life sentences for minor third strike offenses are eligible for re-sentencing if the judge determines that the re-sentence does not pose an unreasonable risk to the public.

There are, however, important exceptions to this rule: if the third strike offense was one that involved a firearm, or if the offender’s prior strike convictions involved rape, murder, or child molestation, the life sentence penalty for the third strike offense will be upheld.

If you or a loved one is charged with a crime that falls under the California Three Strikes Law, or is currently serving a life sentence that could qualify for re-sentencing under Proposition 36, contact criminal lawyer Staycie R. Sena immediately at (949) 477-8088 for a free consultation.

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